Chinese regulators could decide whether to approve a domestic firm's bid for General Motors' GM.UL Hummer brand based on commercial, not political, factors, a government academic with one of the regulators said at the China Investment Summit on Monday.
Sichuan Tengzhong Heavy Industrial Machinery, a little-known machinery maker, raised eyebrows in June when it first announced its deal to buy Hummer, a well-known U.S. brand.
Tengzhong's lack of experience in the car industry, coupled with Hummer's own history of making environmentally unfriendly, gas-guzzling vehicles, sparked a storm of criticism in the Chinese media in light of the deal.
But much of that chatter has died down in the last two months, as Hummer and Tengzhong push ahead with the deal, which must be approved by two key regulators -- the commerce ministry and the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), China's top economic planning agency.
Market share and technology should have been the two key considerations for Tengzhong when it put together its proposal for Hummer, said Chen Dongqi, deputy director of the Academy of Macro-Economic Research under the NDRC.
My personal view is Tengzhong must study if Hummer is worth it, Chen said at the summit at the Reuters office in Beijing. His institute is one of several consultative bodies at the NDRC, and has no direct say in specific decisions though it influences policy formation.
He stressed that the view was his own, and did not represent thinking within the NDRC.
Chen said that in determining whether to approve acquisitions in general, the NDRC should consider factors involving both market benefits and national security.
The NDRC was reportedly lukewarm on the deal shortly after it was announced, but may have adopted a more neutral stance since then, according to media reports and industry observers.
Tengzhong, responding to reports last week that Chinese regulators had approved its bid, said it is still awaiting official word. The official Xinhua news agency quoted the NDRC as saying it had yet to approve the deal.
A source familiar with the deal said late last week that the two sides could finalize terms of the acquisition as soon as this week.
(Editing by Ken Wills)